Campaigners say Lawson hypocritical and out of touch

Lord Lawson's allegedly 'blasé' comments about impacts of Brexit on Britons in France have drawn criticism

Leading Brexiteer Lord Lawson has been accused of hypocrisy and being out of touch by campaigners for expat rights after media around the world followed up on the Connexion’s interview with him in which he revealed he is seeking a French residency carte de séjour.

Lord Lawson, 86, a former chairman of the official Vote Leave campaign, lives in the Gers and said the application “comes under the category of tiresome rather than serious”. A carte de séjour is a recommended step to safeguard the rights Britons have enjoyed due to being EU citizens in France, after Brexit. This will be covered in our new Brexit guide

He also downplayed such risks to the Brexit deal as the Irish border issue, saying there is no real problem. He was convinced Britons’ rights would be secured in the exit agreement and added: “Speaking as a Brit in France – and I’m not applying for French nationality – I am not worried”.

However, campaigners have not appreciated his comments.

Jan Glover of the Brexpats: Hear Our Voice (BHOV) group, which has many members in France, said: “It is Lord Lawson’s right to apply for a carte de séjour, but the hypocrisy is amazing and his blasé attitude towards the situation is beyond words that are printable."

She added: “He has exercised his right to freedom of movement due to the UK being a member of the EU - he moved to France with no barriers to cross and no paperwork to complete. His campaign for the UK to leave the EU will put huge restrictions on 'ordinary' people being able to do this in the future. He now appears to be trivialising the importance of obtaining a carte de séjour as 'tiresome', when in fact for many of us it is proving to be a stressful, expensive and time-consuming procedure.”

The Chairman of Liberal Democrats in France, Paul Fisher, said: “His is the view of a wealthy elitist who clearly does not understand the concerns of ordinary people; he reinforces the view that the government has effectively ignored and abandoned Britons living in France.” He added it is “speculation”, that Britons' rights will be protected by the agreement because “nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed” and “it may be resolved; it may not.”

The Chairman of the British Community Committee of France, Christopher Chantrey, said: “I am just surprised at how ill-informed a former cabinet minister is about what is needed. Lord Lawson is one of the 1.2m Brits living in EU member states and you would expect him to be well-informed about the consequences of the Brexit decision on not only himself but all the Brits living in France and the other member states.

“British in Europe are doing a lot of work on behalf of people like him. He needs to get informed – read The Connexion more often and visit britishineurope.org.”

BHOV founder Debbie Williams said Lord Lawson had ‘muddied the waters’ and had failed to distinguish between EU free movement to live and work anywhere in the EU and the “hassles” involved for non-EU citizens in getting a work permit to work in even a single EU country. She said he had also underestimated the problems that would be caused (for example to holiday home owners) by the rule that third country visitors may not stay more than 90 days in a 180-day period.

“His comment about things being tiresome is pretty insulting to thousands of people who are going through a lot of hassle, expense and anxiety to get papers in order, all because of a vote they had no say in. Most folk don't have the means he has… Like many, his thoughts upon loss of rights seem to relate only to his personal circumstances.”

She added that – even should basic rights be protected by the exit deal – EU rights of Britons currently extend much further, including those to vote and stand in EU and municipal elections, ongoing free movement across the EU and worldwide rights to consular protection from consulates of any of the EU member states.

Asked by Connexion about Lord Lawson’s statement before the referendum that lawyers had told him Britons’ rights would be guaranteed by the Vienna Convention of 1969, Lord Lawson said that while he is “not a lawyer myself” he knew “a number of lawyers” who stood by it and who thought the rights negotiations had been superfluous.

However Mr Fisher said: “The European Commission, The European Council and the European Commission are very clear that citizens' rights will have to be protected as the UK leaves the EU; indeed the parliament has stated that it will not ratify the withdrawal agreement unless these rights are guaranteed.”

Mr Fisher, who has joint British/Irish nationality and is currently staying in Ireland, also called Lord Lawson’s comments on the border issue “delusional”, saying: “There are real concerns here in terms of business, culture, politics, the law, environment and the whole technical issue of how to implement a future fudge. British politicians saying that it is not a problem are pushing the inevitable outcome of Irish reunification. Friends here predict it could be 4-5 years away and definitely within 15.”

Allegations of hypocrisy were also prominent in much of the media coverage of our interview, such as The Independent which headlined: Brexiteer Nigel Lawson branded a ‘hypocrite’ for applying for French residency or Sky News which went with: ‘Hypocrite’ Brexiteer Lord Lawson applies for permanent French residency.

La Dépêche du Midi noted that “the British press has rushed to relate this story, underlining his hypocrisy”.

It was also a widespread theme on social media with those weighing in ranging from Labour peer Andrew Adonis, to actress and presenter Emma Kennedy or the Best for Britain campaign:

 

However The Telegraph reported that Lord Lawson told them the issue was a “storm in a teacup” saying: “It is well known that I live in France and have done for many years. I have mentioned this frequently in in Brexit debates in the House of Lords and elsewhere. It was the French authorities who recently asked me to apply for what they call a carte de séjour."

As we clarified yesterday, also, it should be stressed that Lord Lawson has not moved to France due to Brexit – he is a long-standing resident – and as for other Britons in France his automatic right to permanent residency derives from his EU citizenship and the EU free movement rules.

Connexion previously put a similar ‘hypocrisy’ allegation to Lord Lawson in a 2016 interview before the referendum when he said: “The idea that I am hypocritical because I put first the interests of Britain and the British people, as I see it, is outrageous.

“There’ll still be freedom of movement. People go all over the world. That’s ridiculous and they must be pretty desperate in the ‘Remain’ campaign to resort to this kind of thing.”

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